Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest autobiography is being held up by a rabid national press as explosive material, a sports memoir of our times. But did we really learn anything new about Fergie’s timeline as Manchester United manager since his previous recollections were sent to print in 1999?
In the brave new digital world, most of the prose clamped on from 2001 was public knowledge before yesterday, but why not package it up in time for Christmas anyway? Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography is officially published tomorrow. It can be yours for £25. Nice work if you can get it.
There was a certain irony in Fergie dusting down his blunderbuss to take aim at various moving targets from the closing 12 or so years of the 26 he spent overdosing on trophies at Old Trafford. He most noticeably berates his once rampaging captain Roy Keane for having a shorter fuse than a Tasmanian Devil. David Beckham is similarly derided for wanting to be famous as a showbiz celebrity rather than a professional footballer.
There is delicious irony in a bloke who is apparently set to make off with suitcases of cash sitting at a book launch berating a former player for seeking publicity. The criticism of Keane is also dripping with double standards in just over 400 pages of matter when one considers Ferguson was nicknamed 'Sir Furious' and famed for savaging unsuspecting players not adhering to his demands.
Ferguson rejoiced in banning journalists whenever the mood took him yet yesterday was happy enough to chat away to them to top up his pension.
It is held up to be a football book, but seems more like a personal hit list, a chance to settle old scores. No act of betrayal mind you, just business. Keane will still be picking the verbal shrapnel out of his backside this time next year. We knew that the Irishman signed his own death warrant when he criticised United's younger players in 2005 in an interview with the club’s TV channel, footage that is apparently being held under the 30-year rule. Now he gets to hear all about it again from the 'great' man.
Hell hath no fury like a Fergie scorned. Mark 'Bozza' Bosnich (guilty of prolific overeating), Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez are some of the names set upon for employing a bad attitude and lack of maturity, but this material has been doing the rounds for several years.
This onlooker is already tired of what sounds like much ado about nothing, little more than Fergie picking off insubordinates from yesteryear.
Whether or not you like Keane is neither here nor there. For a man who demanded loyalty from his players, what Ferguson has fraternised with is remarkable disloyalty. Keane contributed like no other player to the legacy Ferguson enjoys today, but people tend to remember whatever suits them.
There is no I in team, but because Ferguson is in retirement mode suddenly there is no we in I. He has, as Keane points out, acted incredibly selfishly. “I do remember having conversations with the manager when I was at the club about loyalty. In my opinion, I don’t think he knows the meaning of the word,” said Keane during ITV’s coverage of Arsenal against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
“It doesn’t bother me too much what he has to say about me, but to constantly criticise other players at the club who brought him a lot of success, I find very, very strange.”
Manchester’s ongoing pop artist Morrissey, apparently a United fan, once sung 'Roy’s keen'. He also has an autobiography out this weather written in one long paragraph. There is a quote in it that says, “effeminate men are very witty, whereas macho men are duller than death.” So back to Fergie.
What was not said remains more interesting. If you are going to relive your own jaundiced view of the past, at least make it a bit juicer.
What role did Ferguson's dispute with the Irish businessman John Magnier and JP McManus play in enabling the Glazer family to gain control of United?
Ferguson issued a writ against the racehorse owners and former Manchester United shareholders Magnier and McManus claiming he was owed millions from the race horse Rock of Gibraltar’s stud career. Ferguson felt he partly owned the horse. He claimed lost earnings of around £110m, half the value of Rock of Gibraltar. It was a horse that won seven straight Group 1 races.
The fallout from a bitter legal dispute that lasted over a year from early 2003 saw his son and agent Jason banned from representing players at the club after internal affairs were investigated by the club’s PLC board.
Ferguson skims over all this in a few paragraphs claiming it was a misunderstanding. That is as misleading as calling Fergie a proud Tory, a theme that also runs through book. For a socialist, Ferguson seems well aware of his own worth. He is hardly representative of the redistribution of wealth when he is doing interviews at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall.
McManus and Magnier sold their 30 percent shareholding in United to the Glazer family. The issue of why the Glazers remain so unpopular with so many United fans is also omitted. The huge interest sum the club pays to service the Glazers’ debt is not touched upon.
“People say Ferguson always does what is right for Man United. I don’t think he does. I think he does what is right for him,” said Keane. “The Irish thing (Rock of Gibraltar) I was speaking to the manager about this. That didn’t help the club, the manager going to law against its leading shareholder. How could it be of benefit to Man United?”
Ferguson sometimes speaks in the third person - the hallmark of a healthy ego. "David Beckham thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson."
He did not care much for Beckham marrying a Spice Girl, and becoming as famous a brand name as United.
"I think the big problem for me and I'm a football man really...he fell in love with Victoria and that changed everything," said Ferguson.
Fergie is always right. Even when Fergie is wrong.
He might be the greatest football manager in history, but this tome is childish and vengeful. The past is a different place. We no longer live there.
Ferguson would have viewed this book as an act of treachery coming from a player. All he has done is cheapen his own status with low-brow, self-indulgent gossip he claimed he detested: tabloid tittle-tattle. At the age of 71, it all is very childish. He will sell a good few books, but there is a price to be paid here that is greater than 25 quid. Ferguson has endorsed an unnecessary act of spite.